December 28, 2017 · 4:58 am
My cowboy knows how much I love to coach and what an important role it plays in my life. This Christmas he gave me a copy of John Cook’s new book Dream Like a Champion. Over the last 17 years, Coach Cook has brought more than a love of volleyball to the Cornhusker State; he created a culture of greatness for women’s athletics. A short two weeks ago, Coach Cook led his Lady Huskers to their 4th National Championship title since becoming head coach in 2000. During his tenure, a state known for its unified love for football opened its heart to similarly embrace the Lady Husker volleyball team.
Dream Like a Champion is chalked full of wisdom not simply about the journey of coaching athletics but also how to inspire others to be successful on their journey of life. I found many, many ideas to ponder as I read the book, but my favorite chapter is entitled “Is God a Coach?”
Coach Cook points out that “God certainly has a lot of coach-like traits.”
God asks us:
- To be disciplined
- To treat others the way that we want to be treated
- To believe in something greater than ourselves
- To rebuild and improve our faith each year
And, He does this by “constantly teaching us new lessons and ways to remain humble.”
God helps us:
- To believe in ourselves
- To erase our doubts
- To provide a sense of hope not just during the good times, but more importantly during those times that we struggle.
He successfully “rebuilds us” as we travel the journey of life.
Coach Cook opens the chapter with the statement, “If I have learned anything from a lifetime of watching and coaching sports, it is that they are almost impossible to separate from spirituality.” As a volunteer coach, I have much fewer high level experiences mentoring athletes but I identified fully with every word written. God is present within me as I coach, and I see Him in the athletes that dedicate great effort to the sport that they love. There are times that I am blessed to work with kids who possess a strength that seems to come from a greater source — they believe, they work, and they execute at a level that confirms my faith in His presence.
Similarly, sometimes an athlete searching for an identity — a reason to believe that they have worth — crosses my path. The best moments of my coaching career come as the light comes on for those kids. When they find both a level of physical success as well as the mental ability to believe, it redefines their perspective and inspires them to want to make a difference — not just for themselves, but for others. In those moments, I see God’s hand and I am filled with joy that He chose me to play a role. It inspires me to keep looking for ways to disciple in my community and get through the inevitable hard times when I am personally challenged.
Coach Cook suggests creating and sharing a 25 word mantra that sums up your philosophy. This serves as guidance on the journey as well as creates accountability during daily coaching chores. As we quickly approach a New Year, I am taking his suggestion to heart.
Anne’s life philosophy:
Pack your Faith to compete with Grace. Make goals. Create plans. Be disciplined. Believe fully. Inspire others. Embrace the discomfort of the road to excellence.
I highly recommend Dream Like A Champion — regardless of whether or not you actively wear a coach’s hat. We all have moments in life where we can inspire, lead, and make a difference in someone else’s life. Take advantage of the gift of God’s love by sharing it with someone else.
Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General, Rural Communities
Tagged as athletics, coaching, Dream Like A Champion, God, Husker Volleyball, John Cook, Mentoring, Nebraska Cornhuskers, spirituality
September 28, 2017 · 4:55 am
Today marks the third 5K race in 8 days for the Haymaker Varsity Cross Country team. We are into the “tough” part of the season where fitness is critical and mental determination creates success. As a coach, I sometimes find myself struggling to find the right words to help the athletes believe in themselves and continuously engage in the running journey.
Words are powerful.
When chosen carefully and delivered effectively:
- They inspire.
- They create.
- They bring beauty to our lives.
In order for words to bring about positive change, they must be heard and they must be meaningful. The bottom line for us is that, as a team, we must celebrate our differences as we build team unity. A culture of hard work and excellence plays a critical role. And, it extends beyond the physical to include our ability to be good teammates.
What are the top 5 qualities of a good teammate?
Heart: Packing your FAITH to trust in both yourself and your teammates creates a team with heart. Building a positive culture inspires a unity dedicated to greatness.
Work Ethic: The road to excellence is never comfortable. Expect to work tirelessly under conditions that will be uncomfortable. Success is often found in the midst of challenge and surrounded by hard work.
Integrity: Truth in thoughts, words and actions creates a team worth fighting for. Love yourself enough to be true to your uniqueness – Love your teammates enough to embrace diversity – Love your sport enough to give it your all.
Leadership: Supporting and mentoring others inspires greatness. The team is bigger than any one individual or race. What you build together is infinitely greater than anything that you can build alone. Life is a journey – one that contains a vastness of joy that can only be tapped through community.
Passion: Race with passion. Give it your all, recognizing that you bring honor to your God, your team, and your sport when you dig deep to compete with perseverance.
Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General, Rural Communities
Tagged as #HaymakerXC, advice, coaching, cross country, Haymakers, how to be a good teammate, Mentoring, teammate, words
July 19, 2017 · 4:55 am
Ask any member of either the Cozad Swim Team or the Haymaker Cross Country team and they will likely tell you that Coach Anne is a core nut. While there may well be an implied double meaning in that statement, the main reason for my reputation as a core nut is that I believe in the power of having a strong set of core muscles. Regardless of your chosen sport, strong stomach and back muscles improve your body coordination/balance and protect you from injury.
Just like anything meaningful in life, a strong core requires dedicated work to achieve and maintain. The V-up muscles do not appear overnight and planking can be downright uncomfortable the first few weeks; but the exercises give you a solid foundation of fitness that leads to success.
As I close in on a decade of coaching, I think about the core of my athletes not just in a physical sense, but also from an emotional and mental standpoint. While I teach my athletes how to swim and run, likely more importantly I help them to learn how to make good life choices. The vast majority of my kids will leave organized athletics when they complete their high school careers; but it is my hope that the life lessons that they learn in the swimming pool and on the cross country course will continue to impact them throughout their lives.
The Cozad Swim Team found great success last Saturday at the Plains Tsunami Championship meet. 174 swims by 45 athletes led to 6 records and 143 top 8 medal earning finishes (33 of which were gold); but I do not believe that the success of the season was measured in those statistics. The medals may have resulted from a successful season; but the true value came from the development of a solid core during the hours of practice that led up to the championship meet.
As a coach, I know how to train the athletes’ bodies; but I also recognize that attaining fitness to find success is a personal choice that must be made by each individual team member. I encourage and direct; but it is the responsibility of the athlete to put forth the effort. I watch as the season progresses knowing that the kids who work the hardest will go home with the victory. That victory may not always appear in the form of a medal; but it most certainly creates a tangible culture that propels the athlete to lifelong success.
There is tremendous power to be found in an innate desire to work hard in order to find excellence.
It comes from Packing Your FAITH (fortitude, attitude, integrity, trust, and humility).
It results in Competing with GRACE (gratitude, resilience, awareness, compassion, and eloquence).
It creates a winning culture where believers are born and achievers thrive.
Photo credits to Corbey Dorsey 🙂
I love the kids that I coach as well as the sports that together we work hard to find success in; but what leaves the largest imprint on my heart is the knowledge that my leadership may one day result in my athletes working hard to make the world a better place. That’s what carries me through each season and inspires me to pack my own FAITH to coach with GRACE.
How do you work hard to pursue excellence in your life?
October 14, 2016 · 4:44 am
This fall, the majority of my blog posts were written on the Haymaker school bus traveling to Cross Country meets. Riding the bus as an adult provides an interesting perspective. You learn more than just to appreciate the beautiful Nebraska countryside.
In addition to being on the coaching roster, two of my three girls also ride the bus. My oldest as a varsity runner and my youngest as a 6th grade student manager with big dreams for competing next year. In the height of the season, when both the junior high and high school athletes competed, there was hardly an open seat on the bus.
The following provides a short list of things that float around in my mind while sitting on the bus.
1. The bus driver is the team’s unsung hero. Not only does he hold the welfare of our kids in his hands — his cheerful, caring nature sets the stage for a good beginning and ending to race day.
2. The Haymaker Cross Country team personifies a positive culture of respect. When the coaches set the standards high, the kids deliver. Anything less is unacceptable. The medals go to the fastest finishes during the race, but the concept of team is what leads to the win — both on and off the course. True character shines through on the bus just as much as during the race. A positive culture produces a higher level of character at the end of the season than existed at the beginning of the season.
3. Teammanship provides a coach’s greatest prize. It is truly beautiful when athletes compete with heart, unselfishly taking care of the team and raising the bar for those around them. The drama meter on the bus should always be low signifying a heathy team experience with good athlete leadership.
Haymaker Cross Country qualified both varsity teams for state yesterday. The bus ride home last night will be my second favorite bus ride of the season as I’m really looking forward to taking a bus load of awesome runners to the Nebraska state meet next Friday 🙂
September 6, 2016 · 4:55 am
I believe that life is a series of callings. Although my faith is deeply personal and generally manifests itself outside of church walls, my relationship with God leads me on the journey. I followed my heart when I became involved in work to improve animal welfare for cattle and this same desire for positive change led me to coaching youth athletics. Likely the only two things that these topics share in common is my passion to make a positive difference.
I had a brief foray into coaching immediately after graduating from college and moving to Nebraska. I served in the volunteer role of assistant coach to the high school Cross Country team in the late 1990’s prior to the birth of my favorite brunette. A busy life running a cattle feed yard and raising a young family took me away from coaching for about a decade, but life has a way of placing a person in the right place at the right time.
I had a wake up call the year that I turned 30 as I lost my health due to an autoimmune system disease. The following five years provided a personal battle that reminded me how precious a gift each day truly is. God has a way of putting life into perspective and, as I worked to regain my health, I found myself inspired to coach again — this time at the swimming pool. Seven years later, with the help of the same awesome lady who guided me in my first foray of Haymaker XC coaching, our local community has a thriving recreational swim team where fitness and fun combine to teach life skills to almost 50 budding athletes.
This fall I took on an additional volunteer coaching gig — coming full circle back to the Haymaker Cross Country team. Ironically, my favorite brunette is now a member of the team which makes me smile as I was eight months pregnant when I hung up my XC coaching hat the first time. I am back on the Haymaker roster as an assistant which allows me to mentor just under thirty junior high and high school athletes on their quest for greatness.
Coaching refills my cup — it touches my heart as I see God in the young people that I get to mentor.
There is something so truly special in playing a leadership role in an athlete’s journey. You learn to coach the athlete in the moment that they need you — filling each unique void — giving direction while also inspiring good independent decision making. Athletics teach toughness, work ethic, empathy, and personal sacrifice. They are about developing fitness: mental, emotional, and physical in order to work toward a common goal. There is nothing more rewarding than watching a culture of greatness develop amongst teammates.
The Haymaker Cross Country team personifies all of these things, and I am truly blessed to be a part of it. Like many coaches, I don’t coach for the win. I coach for the athlete — focusing on developing personal life skills that create leaders. The development of this positive culture brings the win, and it is so much sweeter when the athletes lead the way.
The calling of a coach is a special one. It comes from a quest to use your talents to make a difference in the lives of the young people who will create the future. When I see the athletes dig deep to persevere during competition or unselfishly reach out to teammates in need, I know that God is at work and my heart fills with optimism for all of those times yet to come.
Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Coaching / Personal Growth, General, Rural Communities
Tagged as #HaymakerXC, athletics, coaching, Cozad Nebraska, cross country, Haymakers, Mentoring, volunteer work
July 12, 2016 · 4:55 am
The Haymaker Swim Team took 46 athletes in 170 individual events and 23 relays to the Plains Tsunami North Qualifying meet last Saturday. All 46 of those athletes earned the opportunity to compete next weekend at the Championship Meet.
The kids would likely report that the fun of competition and the excitement of getting to the next level provided the highlight of their day. Mine was the fact that although I only get to coach and mentor these kids for 8 weeks each summer, our team completed the meet with no disqualifications and a large number of excellent athletic performances.
Each swim season we create a mantra which appears on the back of our team shirts. This year our shirts carry the statement Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance. As the coach of a recreation league summer sport, I try to focus on fitness and the development of strength and work ethic. I know that learning to do it right at practice sets the kids up not just for success in the pool but also in life.
While the glory of competitive victory glows brightly, a true winner shines just as radiantly during the hours of practice. It is during those hours of preparation that true character is revealed. Convincing my swimmers of the necessity of passionate effort creates one of my greatest challenges. Settling clearly provides the enemy of greatness, and is spurred by unfocused practice. Each year I create Pitchfork Challenges to help the kids find focused goals to strive for during practice sessions.
For the 2016 season, Pitchfork Challenges included long Individual Medley swims requiring correct stroke technique, sprint freestyle swims with no breathing, and a blend of core “on land” strength challenges. I always enjoy watching the kids accomplish far more than they envisioned possible, and I know that these challenges play an important role in creating a successful season.
This week provides the culmination of the 2016 season. The kids look forward to competing at Championships with a blend of nerves and excitement, and dreams of coming home with medals. I spend the week trying to prepare them knowing that perfect practice makes perfect performance.
Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General, Rural Communities
Tagged as coaching, Cozad Haymakers, Cozad Nebraska, Haymaker Swimming, life lessons, Mentoring, Rural America, swimming, youth athletics, youth mentoring
July 1, 2016 · 4:55 am
In preparation for a swim team meeting today, my favorite blonde cowgirl and I brainstormed and put together 10 Qualities of a Good Teammate. None of these qualities are linked directly with natural athletic talent, however, all of them directly determine an athlete’s success. Building these skills is not easy; however their importance extends far beyond the athletic field and into the game of life.
- Heart: To be a good teammate, you must have enough faith to trust both in your abilities as well as every other team member’s.
- Friendship: To be a good teammate, you must extend friendship and acceptance toward all members. This includes recognizing that no one is perfect and being able to forgive in order to better both yourself and the team.
- Work Ethic: To be a good teammate, you must be willing to work hard – to push yourself to the point of exhaustion – in order to achieve new levels of strength and ability.
- Leadership: To be a good teammate, you must show a positive attitude and look outside of yourself in order to support and mentor others.
- Integrity: To be a good teammate, you must be truthful in your thoughts, words, and actions.
- Passion: To be a good teammate, you must give everything that you have in every moment of competition and training with a strong positive energy that comes from the heart.
- Kindness: To be a good teammate, you must always be both humble and kind. Learning to support others and help them to achieve greatness provides the basis for both personal and team success.
- Positive Culture: To be a good teammate, you must believe in and share the power of positivity – this occurs by encouraging others and inspiring greatness in all those around you.
- Competitive Nature: To be a good teammate, you must be willing to live in the moment of the race and fight for victory – not just for yourself but for those who proudly share the same uniform.
- Leave it all on the deck: To be a good teammate, you must leave all negative emotions and drama outside of the pool so that you can bond with your teammates and work together to build something greater than yourself.
One of my swimmers reminded me this week that “Perseverance = Stubborness with a Purpose” — Imagine how awesome our world would be if everyone persevered on the journey of being a good teammate!
June 28, 2016 · 4:55 am
I competed in my first backstroke race the summer of 1979 at the age of 4. My mom taught me to swim almost before I could walk, and USS Swimming played a huge role in the first 21 years of my life. In addition to allowing me to compete as an athlete at the national level in high school, it also helped me to matriculate at Dartmouth College in the fall of 1993. I wasn’t as smart as the general Ivy League student population, but I knew how to work and I was never known to back down from a challenge.
Although I drifted away from the sport during my twenties as I built a life on the farm and gave birth to my three greatest blessings, I became reunited with it the year my youngest turned 3. At that point, swimming provided a healing influence, and played a vital role as I regained my health after a difficult struggle with Graves Disease. The combination of physical fitness challenge as a swimmer and the mental fitness that I acquired as a coach enabled me to find the “old Anne” and shake off the deflated self esteem that often develops when battling a chronic illness.
Looking for a “high 5” at the beginning of the meet…
Years later, our local swim team thrives with 46 young competitors aged 7-16. Coaching is the highlight of my summer and I love to watch the sport play a positive role in the growth of our community’s young people. It is not just speed and strength that gets developed in the water — it is character, work ethic, and respect. The almost twenty hours a week that I put in as a volunteer coach during the summer months nurtures my altruistic side despite the fact that during hard workouts my athletes have been known to classify me as evil…
What they likely don’t realize is that I push them because I care about them: both the young people that they are today and the awesome adults that they will grow up to be tomorrow. I hope that sometime ten years down the road each of my swimmers will rattle off one of the many motivational phrases that I am known for and take a moment to appreciate what we built together.
Our league also allows for adults to swim, so each week I get to hit the water to prove to myself that I still can. I love that I demonstrate with each day that passes that swimming is a life sport and fitness is fun.
- Every practice is a challenge to be met.
- Every race is an opportunity to embrace.
- Every awesome effort proves that while the road to excellence is rarely comfortable, success thrives in an uncomfortable environment.